The next move after a child is done with infant formula, according to nutrition experts, is to give them water or cow’s milk. But according to formula manufacturers, it’s to give them toddler milk. This is a powdered drink that is supposed to provide 1-to-3-year-olds with extra nutrients between the bites of broccoli they might be tentatively trying. And as infant-formula sales have slumped in recent years, baby-formula companies are starting to see toddler milk as their next move as well.
Toddler milk is the fastest-growing category of breast-milk substitutes, according to the World Health Organization, and is now available at grocery stores and on websites such as Amazon. But child-nutrition experts say this type of milk is expensive, unnecessary, and possibly even unhealthy. Although toddler milk can cost four times the price of cow’s milk, the drink consists mainly of powdered milk, corn syrup, and vegetable oil. As a result, it contains less protein per serving than cow’s milk does, researchers say, along with added sugar that cow’s milk lacks.
Evidence shows that American toddlers already drink too many sugar-sweetened beverages; the recommended level is none. And the claims that formula companies make about toddler milk—that it promotes healthy brain growth or supports digestive health—are dubious at best, experts argue. In a commercial for Enfagrow Toddler Next Step, for instance, a soothing voice-over says, “Enfagrow Toddler nourishes healthy brain growth because it has DHA,” as a toddler chugs happily from a red sippy cup. But nutrition experts say there’s no evidence that toddlers aren’t getting these nutrients already. “These companies are making claims that are lies,” says Blythe Thomas, the chief strategy officer at 1,000 Days, an organization that promotes child nutrition. “It’s not okay to lie to moms.”